Social health inequalities and e-health: A systemic review of the literature

Article de revue


État de publication: Publiée (2017 )

Nom de la revue: Journal of Medical Internet Research

Volume: 19

Intervalle de pages: 1-14

ISBN: 1438-8871


Résumé: Background: eHealth is developing rapidly and brings with it a promise to reduce social health inequalities (SHIs). Yet, it appears that it also has the potential to increase them. Objectives: The general objective of this review was to set out how to ensure that eHealth contributes to reducing SHIs rather than exacerbating them. This review has three objectives: (1) identifying characteristics of people at risk of experiencing social inequality in health; (2) determining the possibilities of developing eHealth tools that avoid increasing SHI; and (3) modeling the process of using an eHealth tool by people vulnerable to SHI. Methods: Following the EPPI approach (Evidence for Policy and Practice of Information of the Institute of Education at the University of London), two databases were searched for the terms SHIs and eHealth and their derivatives in titles and abstracts. Qualitative, quantitative, and mixed articles were included and evaluated. The software NVivo (QSR International) was employed to extract the data and allow for a metasynthesis of the data. Results: Of the 73 articles retained, 10 were theoretical, 7 were from reviews, and 56 were based on empirical studies. Of the latter, 40 used a quantitative approach, 8 used a qualitative approach, 4 used mixed methods approach, and only 4 were based on participatory research-action approach. The digital divide in eHealth is a serious barrier and contributes greatly to SHI. Ethnicity and low income are the most commonly used characteristics to identify people at risk of SHI. The most promising actions for reducing SHI via eHealth are to aim for universal access to the tool of eHealth, become aware of users’ literacy level, create eHealth tools that respect the cultural attributes of future users, and encourage the participation of people at risk of SHI. Conclusions: eHealth has the potential to widen the gulf between those at risk of SHI and the rest of the population. The widespread expansion of eHealth technologies calls for rigorous consideration of interventions, which are not likely to exacerbate SHI.

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